We are told that, prior to the current enlightened age, one of the ways that evil corporations would rip off their workers was the Company Store. Instead of giving you money, they’d operate a Company Store and give you goods. Problem was, without real money, you couldn’t go to a competing store that might give you a better deal unless you switched jobs. You’d have to put up with whatever inferior, overpriced merchandise they felt like stocking.
Kind of a bummer, right? It’s a good thing that our Corporate Overlords saw the light and quit that nonsense.
Or did they?
The Company Store isn’t gone, it’s just been reduced in scope. Now the Company Store mainly offers health insurance and retirement investments. But, in the areas where the Company Store reigns supreme, the same problems keep cropping up.
You can’t switch health plans without switching jobs. The insurance company’s customers is your employer, not you. The insurance company doesn’t have any reason to keep you happy (it just has to keep you from getting so unhappy you’ll switch jobs in order to get rid of its policy), and it shows every time you have to deal with it.
Oddly enough, while its customer service is busy treating you like the non-customer you are, the plan itself winds up paying for things that make no sense whatsoever from an insurance standpoint. This is because a company insurance plan functions partly as a tax-dodge to spend pre-tax dollars on routine maintenance that it would never make sense to buy actual insurance for. If not for tax rules, you would never buy an insurance policy that covers routine checkups you know with absolute certainty that you’re going to get; you know you’re going to end up paying the full cost of the checkups plus a markup for the insurance company.
Also, since company health plans must offer the same rate to every worker, your company gets hit with the cost differential when it brings in older or less healthy workers. Giving companies a direct financial incentive to engage in age discrimination doesn’t strike me as an especially good idea. Setting things up so that their costs, and their profits, are affected by unhealthy things you do in your off time is also just asking for trouble.
And, since all policies must cover the same things, you get stuck buying coverages you don’t want, and can’t specify coverages you do want. Lawmakers have also taken to piling on coverages that must be included in all group plans, such as birth control pills (!).
And, of course, it would be nice if periods of unemployment had no impact on your health insurance other than by way of your ability to pay the premium. Business creation would be more common if getting off of someone else’s payroll didn’t impact your health plan.
Now we’re told that the only way that we can get employers out of the loop is to bring government into the loop. Apparently, individuals can’t just buy healthcare on their own, someone (either the employer or the government) has to “give” it to them (with their own money, of course).
This is, of course, nonsense. The standard objections to individual insurance purchases are:
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